Lock Screen Options: Password, PIN, Pattern or Fingerprints?

By Carrie Murray, Monday, Octorber 31, 2016

Android offers us four Lock screen options: password, PIN, pattern and fingerprints. Which is the best? And by saying the "best", we not only just mean the most secure, but also the relatively convenient one.

The most secure unlocking mechanism should be the one that contains the maximum amount of possiblities so that it'll be harder to an unauthorized user to guess the right password/PIN/pattern. Even a government agency gets your phone, they have to make use of technical ability and resources to make unlimited attempts to guess your password/PIN/pattern. So the more possiblities, more secure. However, we are not some sort of spies, but just ordinary people who have to unlock their phones dozens of times one day, so the unlocking mechanism can't be too complicated.

Don't know which unlocking option you should choose? Go on reading to find the best lock screen option and learn how to set it up.

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Android Select Lock Screen

Part 1: Lock Screen with Password

Password is defined as the lock screen options with the highest security on Android phone since it contains the maximum amount of possiblities. A study has shown that 5-character passwords could have 5,904,900,000 possibilities, while 5-point patterns have 15,120 permutations and four-digit PIN with 10,000 variants.

And since a password must be at least 4 characters, no more than 17 characters, and must contains at least 1 letter, the most secure way to set up password is to use an alphanumerical password with symbols that's at least 8 characters long.

Setting up password is easy on Android phone, let's take Samsung Galaxy S5 as an example: go to "Settings" > "Lock Screen" > "Password". Enter the password you creat and re-enter to verify.

Android Set up Password

Tip: Forget the password of Android? here is what You should do.

Part 2: Lock Screen with PIN

Password is certainly more secure, but alphas plus numbers and even symbols? Some users may just say "No thanks". PIN will be a great option to these users. It is the most secure unlocking method next to password, and more importantly, it requires only four digits. But the studies of  security experts have revealed that many people tend to choose predictable PINs like 1212 or ones that make patterns on the keypad, like 2580 (straight down the middle of the keypad) or 1739 (top left, bottom left, top right, bottom right). So if you use PIN to lock your phone screen, you may want to set it as less predictable one.

The method to set up PIN is similar to that of password: go to "Settings" > "Lock Screen" > "PIN". Enter the PIN you creat and re-enter to verify.

Android Set up PIN

Part 3: Lock Screen with Pattern

Pattern is believed to the less secure way to lock your phone, even though it has more possibilities than a PIN. That's because it is easier to guess a pattern. Experts have discovered that many users tend to employ the same predictable patterns, and there is even a presentation named "Tell Me Who You Are, and I Will Tell You Your Lock Pattern" at the PasswordsCon conference in Las Vegas last year.

Moreover, using the pattern lock will place some unique smears onto your phone, which will help others to better figure out that possible choices of your pattern. So you would like to use a pattern, pay attention to the following tips:

  • Change your patterns after a period of time;

  • Avoid predictable patterns, such as drawing out a letter, often the initial letter of your name.

To set up a pattern, go to "Settings" > "Lock Screen" > "Pattern". First draw out your pattern twice then enter Backup PIN in case you forget the pattern.

Android Set up Pattern

Tip: If pattern is fogotten, here are 3 different ways for you to unlock Android phone.

Part 4: Lock Screen with Fingerprint

Many smartphone models now are armed with fingerprint reader to unlock the device, such as  Samsung Galaxy S7, HTC One ME, Moto G. Everyone has unique fingerprint, so fingerprint seems the perfect way to avoid unpermitted access. However, the security firm FireEye found out that most Android device manufacturers don't make use of Android's Trust Zone to protect fingerprints data so that stored fingerprints can be remotely attained from Android devices by hackers, which the hackers could upload an image of their own fingerprint and use malware to access the phone. That could be the reason why fingerprint is included to medium security.

Besides, some fingerprint readers could be unstable and not working sometimes.

To set up fingerprint on Galaxy S5, navigate to "Settings" > "Lock Screen" > "Fingerprint". Swipe to record your fingerprint and then create a backup password. Next time you enter the Lock screen settings, you need the backup password to sign in.

Android Set up Fingerprint

Conclusion

To conclude, the security of these four options will be: password > PIN > fingerprint > pattern. So if you are using a phone with much private and confidential data, password will be the best way to lock your phone. If you prefer a easier way to unlock phone, the other three options are also OK. But try to avoid fingerprint if the fingerprint reader doesn't work very well on your device.

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